Inca Trail Trek
Hike the classic Inca Trail: Experience the famous Inca Trail for 4 incredible days, and pass through the Sun Gate at dawn for that first magical sighting of Machu Picchu!
The Inca Trail is Peru’s own microcosm; lush green cloud forest alive with wildlife, Andean mountain passes, a vast landscape dotted with ruins of Inca civilization… and is accessible only to those who follow this famous trail. This is the most popular hike on the Inca Trail.
Highlight: Machu Picchu
Distance: 43KM/26 Miles
Considerations: Permission required.
Best Season: From March 1st to January 31st.
The government has authorized a small portion of the thousands of kilometers of Inca Trail preserved for this walk. This popular classic route is 26 miles long and takes 4 days. You can do this same route at a slower pace for a 5 day hike. For those who want to make it more challenging, there is a 7 day hike that combines the Salkantay Pass and the Inca Trail. There is also a short version of 2 days, which has a day hike and a day in Machu Picchu. No matter which route you choose, you will need a permit to do the trek.
Itinerary - What to expect
Our operator will pick you up anywhere in Cusco, Urubamba or Ollantaytambo. The pick up in Cusco will be from 4 to 4:30 AM, in Urubamba from 5:30 to 6 AM, and if you stay in Ollantaytambo, you will be able to sleep a little with your pick up from 6:30 to 7 AM. These times will be confirmed at your briefing, as they may fluctuate depending on where you are staying. We will take you to the Casa de Porteros which is located in Ollantaytambo after a delicious breakfast prepared by your cook, your guide will introduce you to your team of porters.
Then we will go to Km 82, pass by the first checkpoint of the Inca Trail to start our hike. Please make sure you have your original passport to enter the Inca Trail. The first 2 hours of the hike are relatively easy as we are heading to our first Inca site. Patallacta is an old Inca checkpoint for the approach to Machu Picchu.
From Patallacta it is another 2 hours walk to our lunch stop. After lunch, we will walk for another 2½ hours until we reach the first campsite of the night in Ayapata (3300 meters). In this last stretch, we pass by 2 small communities. If you want to buy some energy drinks, snacks or essential items you have forgotten, such as batteries, you can do it here. We will arrive at our camp at 5:00 PM. After you have settled in for a while, you can relax and have a hot drink and snack with your team of porters, chefs and guides. At 7:30 PM, your dinner will be ready, and then you can have a well-deserved rest.
- Walking distance: 8.7 miles/14 km (6-7 hours)
- Altitude of the camp: 3300 meters (high) above sea level
- Considered: Moderate day (get used to the Inca Trail)
- Weather: Warm and windy
The next morning, your porters will wake you up early with a cup of hot coke tea to prepare you for the day. We will start early as it will be our longest day. We will walk for about 4 hours to the highest pass of the trip, the Dead Woman’s Pass (4215 meters/13829 feet). Upon reaching the pass, we will stop to enjoy the views before heading back down to the next valley (Pacaymayu Valley – Escondido River). It is another hour and a half of descent on the side of the valley to our lunch spot, where you will have the opportunity to refill your water bottles. After lunch, we start climbing again to the second pass of the hike. It is 2 hours over the pass where we will stop at a small Inca site (Runcu Raccay) and see two huge waterfalls that fall on the opposite side of the valley. After the second pass, it is another hour of descent to reach the magnificent Inca site, Sayacmarca (an inaccessible village).
We will stop here to rest and make a quick visit. Afterwards, we will be able to see the sunset over the Vilcabamba mountain range. Then we only have another 20 minutes to stop and spend the night in our second campsite Chaquicocha (Dry Lake, 3600 meters). After dinner, if you are not too tired, we can do a little stargazing, and point out the fascinating Inca constellations. In the magnificent southern hemisphere sky, far from all artificial lighting, this sky is something to behold.
- Walking distance: 9.94 miles/16 km (7-8 hours)
- Altitude of the camp: 3600 meters (high) above sea level (cold weather)
- Considered: The highest day (you will have survived the two highest passes)
- Area: The Andes and the Cloud Forest
- Weather: Cold and rainy
On this third day, we will start early again, waking up at 6:30 am to begin what is commonly considered the most beautiful day of the entire Inca Trail. We walk for 2 hours through what we like to call “the Inca plane” (gradual inclines) and begin to enter the jungle, known as the Cloud Forest. As we walk, we will have the opportunity to see the Salkantay, the second highest snow-capped mountain in the Sacred Valley, and a fantastic panoramic view of the Vilcabamba mountain range. Towards the end of the Inca plains, we begin to climb to the last peak at Phuyupatamarka (3600 meters) from where we will have great views of the Urubamba River. Going down the valley, we will have our first view of the mountain of Machu Picchu, but the site itself remains hidden. From Phuyupatamarka it is a 3 hour hike up a flight of stairs to our last campsite near Wiñay Wayna (Forever Young). Wiñay Wayna is the most spectacular Inca site on the trail after Machu Picchu and the most popular camp due to its proximity to Machu Picchu. During the descent, we visit 2 Inca ruins, Phuyupatamarka (Town in the Clouds) and Intipata (Terraces of the Sun). We arrive at our campsite around 1:00 PM for lunch.
Then we will relax so that you are ready for your last day in Machu Picchu. Around 4:30 PM your guide will give you a brief orientation, and you will visit the Inca ruins of Wiñay Wayna for an hour and a half there. Your guide will explain the meaning of the site and combine all the information given during the walk. In this way you will be completely prepared for your visit to Machu Picchu the next day. We like to pamper our guests while enjoying our last feast with the porters and chefs. It is a tradition of the Inca Trail to organize an evening ceremony to introduce the equipment to the tourists once again. This is to thank them for their great work (if you wish to provide them with advice, you can do so at this time). It is advisable to go to bed at a reasonable time to get up in the early hours of the morning to arrive at Machu Picchu at dawn in the hope that the weather will give us a beautiful sunrise over the ruins of Machu Picchu.
- Walking distance: 6.2 miles/10km (5 hours)
- Altitude of the camp: 2,600 meters (high) above sea level (cold weather)
- Considered: An easy day – all downhill!
- Area: High Cloud Forest
- Weather: Warm and very humid
This is one of the most expected days, the time to get up is at 3:30 AM. We will have breakfast at 4:00 AM and wait at the checkpoint to be one of the first to start walking when the gates open at 5:30 AM. We will say goodbye to our team of porters and cooks and then head to the Puerta del Sol (Inti Punku). From here we have spectacular views of the mountains and Machu Picchu in all its splendor. We will arrive at the Sun Gate at 6:30 a.m., and then it is only an hour’s walk to the Lost City of the Incas. As we walk and approach Machu Picchu, the views of the city improve. Around 7:40 AM we will reach the final checkpoint and enter Machu Picchu to begin our 2-hour private guided tour. After the tour, you will be given your bus tickets to go down to Aguas Calientes, and will have plenty of free time to explore the city on your own or climb one of the neighboring mountains – Huaynapicchu (must be arranged in advance).
Your guide will offer to meet you in the town of Aguas Calientes to enjoy your last lunch in a local restaurant. This is optional and not included. During lunch, your guide will give you your train tickets, so if you decide to skip, please make arrangements to get them before you leave for Machu Picchu. Unless you have arranged an upgraded train, we will reserve the Expedition class train that leaves Aguas Calientes at 3:20 p.m. or 4:22 p.m. Please make sure you are on the platform at least 30 minutes before. This will be a 2 hour train to Ollantaytambo or Poroy (based on the train you take), where an Alpaca driver will meet you and take you back to town in our bus, and then drop you off at your hotel.
- Considered: The most exciting and magical day (getting up early at 3.30 AM)
- Area: High clouds and subtropical forest
- Weather: Hot and very humid (bring plenty of water)
What to Bring
When preparing your luggage, remember that the rainy season in Machu Picchu is from December to March. The winter, between May and August, is especially cold, so we recommend that you bring this items:
- Your valid Passport
- Good backpack (the smaller the better)
- Camelbaks for 2 or 3 liters.
- Comfortable hiking boots.
- 3 wick shirts
- 3 trekking pants
- 4 sets of underwear.
- 4 sets of hiking socks
- 1 Fleece
- 1 warm feather jacket: it is very cold at night
- 1 Rain jacket and pants
- 1 hat for the sun
- 1 wool hat
- Headlight: essential
- Waterproof gloves (even if they are ski gloves, take them)
- Comfortable shoes for the camp
- Walking boots
- Waterproof jacket/waterproof poncho
- Quick drying towel.
- Small soap bottle.
- Battery charger: No place to plug in while walking!
- Large plastic bags: to help organize and keep clean from dirt.
- Sleeping bag: Sleeping bags are recommended for -10C at least.
- Facial Moisturizer
- Bug spray
- Hand Sanitizer
- Wet Wipes
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Toilet paper
- Personal medication…
- First aid kit: bandages, moleskin, etc.
- Water: we provide clean water at every meal. You are responsible for your first morning of water, as we will not have time to filter the water until your first lunch.
- Sun hat
- Rain gear.
- Music (Spotify Offline)
- Hand Sanitizer
- Toilet paper and a small plastic bag for waste
- Extra money for souvenirs, drinks and tips
Huayna Picchu is the mountain next to Machu Picchu. It is a 45 minute walk to the top. Even when you do this walk on your own, your guide will show you the entrance to the trail. This hike is an additional entrance ticket that we can assure you in advance.
Your tickets will be purchased to coincide with the time you need to start the trail. Tickets are for the first session from 7-8 AM or the second session from 10-11 AM. We purchased the Second Session for our clients so that you can enjoy your Machu Picchu tour before you begin. This window is only your start time, and you can take your time getting on and off, so there is no rush.
The ticket is $75 per person.
* It is only possible to do so if you have an extra day to visit Machu Picchu
The mountain of Machu Picchu is the other mountain that rises above the ruins of Machu Picchu. It offers even more impressive views than Huayna Picchu, but it takes an hour and a half to reach the top. For this hike, it will be an additional entrance ticket that we can assure you.
Tickets for the Machu Picchu mountain are now also within a time frame of when you can start – which is between 9-10 AM. Due to this limited time frame, it is not possible to do the Inca Trail and the Machu Picchu Mountain hike. However, you can schedule a second visit to the citadel the next day.
This ticket costs $75 per person.
All our tours include the Expedition Train. This train is usually reserved at 4:22 p.m., departing from Aguas Calientes. The Vistadome Train is an upgraded train that offers slightly larger seats, windows, and even some entertainment. Normally, the Vistadome train is reserved for 4:43 p.m. and travels to Poroy, a train station closer to Cusco. Although this is an improved fare, we will still include your transportation back to your hotel.
This train costs $75 per person
All information sessions are held at an agreed upon location at 6:30 PM the night before your trip. If you are unable to arrive at this time, you need to coordinate again with a member of the Machu Picchu Prime team. Information sessions last approximately 30 to 45 minutes, and you will receive your canvas bags.
You will receive your duffle bags at your briefing. Your porters will take them and return them to you at each camp. They are 66 cm long X 36 cm wide/2 feet long X 1 foot wide.
Each bag has a maximum weight of 7 kg. Remember that 4 kg will be for your clothes and other personal items. The remaining 3 kg will be for your sleeping bag and mattress.
Pick-ups are scheduled to go to your hotel and pick you up, this happens if your hotel is in the center of the city of Cusco. Pick up time can vary between 30 and 45 minutes, depending on traffic conditions and previous pick ups.
Cusco is an ancient city with cobbled streets and very narrow passages. Smaller hotels and airlines are usually on streets that cars cannot pass through. They also tend to be on hillsides with long and steep climbs, making it difficult to transport luggage. We strongly recommend that you book accommodation with better access. CONTACT US if you need recommendations in what hotels you can stay.
Leaving Machu Picchu requires a lot of logistics, which is included in your tour.
– From Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes, you will take a 25 minute bus to the village. The buses are the first to arrive and they run all day.
– You will take a train from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo or Poroy. The guide will give you your train tickets with the time of the train. Be sure to arrive at the platform 30 minutes in advance.
* The train from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo is 2 hours
* The train from Aguas Calientes to Poroy is 3.5 hours
– Once you arrive at the train station, look for a gentleman dressed in green with a poster of Alpaca Expeditions. He will take you to San Francisco Square, Cusco.
* The trip in van from Ollantaytambo to the nearby plaza of San Francisco is 2 hours
* The van ride from Poroy to the nearby San Francisco Plaza is 30 minutes
– Once you arrive near San Francisco Plaza, you will be separated by prepaid cabs and taken back to your hotel.
Machu Picchu now has two different time windows of when you can visit: either in the morning or in the afternoon. Your entry will be for one session only, the morning session, and when your time window is over, the Rangers will ask you to leave.
MORNING SESSION: 6AM – 12PM
AFTERNOON SESSION: 12PM – 5:30PM
** If you have tickets to walk in Huaynapicchu or in the Machu Picchu mountain, you will have extra time until 2:30PM.
If you want to spend the whole day at Machu Picchu, we can add a ticket for the afternoon session to your reservation for $50 per person.
Machu Picchu is most beautiful when seen from above, so it is very popular to make an excursion to one of the mountains next to the ruins after your tour.
Huaynapicchu is the most popular and should be booked in advance as it sells very quickly. This hike takes approximately 45 minutes to the top, and another 45 minutes on the way back. Tickets are sold in sessions that indicate when you can start this walk. The first session is from 7-8 AM, and the second from 10-11 AM. Again, this refers to the time you can start the walk. We usually reserve the second session so that you can enjoy the hike with your guide first. You will do this walk on your own, but your guide will show you where to start.
The mountain Machu Picchu is a little longer and a little less popular. It takes about an hour and a half to reach the top and another hour and a half to descend. Again there are two time windows – from 7-8 AM and 9-10 AM and we usually buy the second time window. 4 and 7 day Inca Trail walkers can NOT do this walk and enjoy a tour of the ruins. Time will not permit this.
Walking on either mountain will allow you to have some extra time at the ruins once you finish, as indicated above.
You should be honest with your guide about any health conditions or concerns you may have. Although our guides are not medical professionals, they are trained in first aid. We also work with a clinic in Cusco that can help our team.
You are responsible for evaluating whether a tour is right for you. You should consult your doctor to confirm your suitability for the trip and participation in any planned activities. You should seek your doctor’s advice on vaccinations and medical precautions. We will not provide medical advice. It is your responsibility to evaluate the risks and requirements of each aspect of the Tour based on your unique circumstances, limitations, level of physical fitness and medical requirements.
If you develop extreme altitude sickness or any other illness that prevents you from hiking, and still wish to visit Machu Picchu by train, we will work with you to coordinate this trip. Since this will be a new trip, additional fees may be required. We will use as much of the original itinerary as possible to keep costs down.
If you experience problems during the hike and are unable to continue, a porter will accompany you to the nearest road and wait while a car comes to pick you up and take you to the nearest health clinic.
The group trips are made up of all kinds of people, with different hiking skills and ages. By accepting a group tour, it is accepted that some people may be slower or faster than you. Everyone can go at their own pace on the hike, and the guide will work with the group to spend time with everyone. Groups can request some modifications to the tour, and the guide will work with everyone to make the best decision for the group.
Unfortunately, strikes are frequent in Peru and can disrupt our travels. Roads are often blocked, and trains are stopped. We will make sure that your trip continues as planned, even if it means leaving the night before your start date. Under these circumstances, tours may have to be cancelled. But our operations department will coordinate with you in this situation. Your safety is always our primary concern and will dictate how we decide.
You are responsible for your items throughout the Tour. Please be diligent about where you leave your items and remember to remove all items from our vans, your stores, restaurant, etc. Do not leave anything unattended during your walk. Other walkers or teams may pick you up without knowing who you are.
Tipping is part of the tradition of any trip to Machu Picchu. Although we pay good salaries to all our staff, anything extra is always appreciated. Please know that this is not mandatory and that you should never feel pressured to do so.
Typically, participants in a group collect their tip money for the porters and the chef. The recommended amount is different for each walk and is listed below. For the guide, this is more personal and should be decided based on your relationship with them and done separately from the group. You can give them in dollars or soles, although some prefer dollars.
Travel insurance is cheap and highly recommended. With trips planned months in advance, you can never predict what might happen. Adventure trips include more risks than the average trip. Insurance is a way to protect the investment you have made in this trip. We can help recommend an agent to guide you through this type of insurance if necessary.
Of course, the weather is unpredictable. Typically the dry season in Cusco is from April to October, but this does not prevent the rain from falling in June or the sun from rising in December, so be prepared. No matter what month you do the trek, make sure you have a rain gear that includes a waterproof jacket, pants, poncho and waterproof gloves. Many people forget about gloves, but the cold and wet weather makes hiking very unpleasant.
Also, be prepared for the four seasons. Several of the treks through the Andes involve various microclimates and you will need to be prepared. Layers are always key as they are easy to adjust to different temperature changes. Be prepared with a warm down jacket as the night will be cold.
It is also important to note that the weather can change a listed itinerary. There are times when the routes become impassable, and our guides will be forced by your safety to redo your tour.
As soon as people book their trip to Peru, specifically to Cusco, they begin to wonder about altitude sickness. The air at high altitudes contains less oxygen than at sea level and forces the body to work harder to get the oxygen it needs. For several days at high altitude, your body adjusts to the lower amount of oxygen in the air. For this reason, we always recommend spending at least two days in Cusco before beginning any trek in the Andes. Cusco is a wonderful city with a lot to do, so if you have more time to acclimatize you won’t be bored.
With altitude sickness, you may first feel like you have the flu or a hangover. You may have a headache, tiredness, loss of appetite, nausea or vomiting, dizziness, trouble sleeping, trouble breathing during exercise. If any of these effects become severe, please contact our office, and we will help you get to a doctor.
Most of the time, these symptoms will be mild. We always recommend facilitating activity slowly, allowing your body to adapt. Drink plenty of fluids, such as water or coke tea. Coca tea has been used since ancient times to help prevent altitude sickness. The leaves of the coca plant contain alkaloids that help bring oxygen to the blood, which helps the body avoid the effects of altitude sickness. Avoid drinking too much alcohol and coffee. They will cause you to urinate more often and become dehydrated. Avoid smoking. Smoking makes it harder for your body to get oxygen. Avoid sleeping pills. They can cause shallow breathing at night, making it difficult for your body to absorb oxygen while you sleep.
Remember that the walk to Machu Picchu is not a race. Even the fittest will suffer from altitude sickness if they run to the top of the mountain too fast. Go slowly, and it will give your body time to adjust to the elevation.
Your doctor can prescribe medications such as acetazolamide and dexamethasone to help prevent altitude sickness. Start taking the medication two days before you reach a high altitude. Continue to take it as long as you are at a high altitude.
You should remember that this is your vacation and you do not want to be stressed out by the possibility of getting sick in the mountains. Do everything slowly and drink lots of water, and enjoy the coca tea. If something happens and you unfortunately get sick, let your guide know immediately. Our guides are trained to help you through it.
Cusco airport can receive international flights only from certain countries and airlines, which are Avianca from Colombia to Cusco, Chile: from Santigago to Cusco, and Bolivia. All other and most international air travelers must disembark in Lima and go through customs. Even if your flight to Cusco is the same day by the same airline, you must take your bags in Lima and then check them in again.
The best way to get to Cusco is by air, and there are several options on the airlines. LATAM tends to be the most expensive but has the most options and flights. Expect flight delays or cancellations. Due to the high altitude of Cusco, it tends to be difficult to land, and any weather will stop air traffic. Bus travel is always available, and although the trip may be long, especially from Lima, buses in Peru are very well maintained and comfortable. This option is highly recommended if you are coming from a city closer to Cusco, such as Puno. Buses from Lima will take about 24 hours to arrive.
At Machu Picchu Prime, we try to make reservations as easy as possible. We need a reservation form that is complete and includes all the details of the entire group on one form please, and then a deposit of $200 per person. Deposits can be paid separately, as long as we have a reservation form that we can use to track payments. Once we have all the deposits and details, then we will reserve your permits. When the permits are in our hands, we will send you your invoice and confirmation that everything is 100% set up. All start dates, once confirmed, are guaranteed.
Inca Trail only accepts 200 travelers every day, so make you book in advance.
Only certain tour operators are authorized, we have several allies, such as Lorenzo Expeditions. Once the permit is secured, the name and start date cannot be changed, under any circumstances. The only information the government allows us to change is the passport number.
Most people will arrive in Cusco by air. Please remember that the Cusco airport is for domestic travel only. If you are coming directly from abroad through Lima, you must pick up your bags in Lima and check them again for your flight to Cusco. Four airlines fly back and forth between Lima and Cusco. These include LATAM Airlines, AVIANCA Airlines, Star Peru and Peruvian Airlines. They all offer similar flight schedules and services, but we usually recommend LATAM or AVIANCA airlines. They tend to be the most helpful when unexpected flight cancellations or delays occur.
Although you can stay in any hotel in Cusco, the city is becoming more difficult to navigate by car. Many roads, especially near the main square, are open only to pedestrian traffic. We will notify you if it is not possible to pick you up by car and arrange another meeting point to pick you up or drop you off. For a list of recommended hotels, please ask us.
Ollantaytambo is the best place to stay apart from Cusco. When you stay in Ollantaytambo, you will sleep a little longer, because we will pick you up about an hour and a half after the pick-up time from Cusco.
Of course yes.
If you agree to take the same train from Aguas Calientes that is part of your original itinerary, which is typically at 4:22 pm, then there is no additional charge for reversing the train one day. If you need us to secure your hotel or another visit to Machu Picchu, this will be an additional cost. If you decide to spend an extra night in Aguas Calientes, be sure to notify us, at least one month in advance, so that your train ticket can be purchased for the correct day.
Most hotels and even houses in Peru now have standard U.S. output and also output from South America.
Although you do not need any specific training to do the 4-day Inca Trail, being fit will help you. The best preparation for the walk is the treadmill exercises with steep slopes and stairs. The second day will be the most difficult, as you will climb two peaks that day.
We always recommend lightweight hiking boots if possible. Those with ankle support are very useful, especially for the inexperienced hiker. Because you will be descending so many steps created by the Incas, now uneven and at different heights, the extra support helps to prevent you from twisting your ankles.
Canes are always useful for walkers, but especially on this trip. There are so many stairs to descend and they were all made by the Incas 400 years ago. They vary in height and not all are straight. The use of canes can help relieve the pressure on the knees at this part of the road. In addition, they will also help you to climb the mountain. All of our poles are expandable black diamond poles that can be bent and tied to your bag when you are not using them. For those who bring their own, be sure to have rubber tips, or the rangers will not allow you to use them. The rubber tips can be purchased in Cusco if you forget them before you leave.
All your luggage is not necessary for the trip and must remain in Cusco. All the hotels are very accommodating and are used to keep the luggage in the place, or you can keep it with us with total security.
Please understand that this is an impossible question for us to answer. Historically, April to September is the dry season, November to February is the wet season and March and October and the bridge months – a mix of both. But the clouds have not followed these rules in recent years. Be prepared for sun and rain no matter when they come. When it comes to temperatures, that’s consistent throughout the year. Mornings and afternoons are always cold. Be sure to bring a wool jacket for the mornings and a down jacket for the afternoons. Once the sun comes up, you should be comfortable walking and walking around Machu Picchu in short sleeves. Long pants (yoga or walking) are encouraged to help from the mosquitoes that can be a nuisance in Aguas Calientes.